The E-Newsletter of
A Monthly Digest of Current Research, Emerging Issues, and New Initiatives

Vol. 4, No. 2, February 2008
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

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Violence is the main obstacle to human development. There is an intrinsic link between violence and religion, patriarchal gender violence being the most pervasive expression of religious violence. Mitigating violence therefore requires overcoming the patriarchal mindset, especially in religious institutions. The mission of this independent newsletter is to provide a commented digest on current research and emerging issues related to human solidarity, ecological sustainability, and both religious and secular non-violence. The U.N. "Millennium Development Goals" (MDGs) are used as a point of reference.

Theme of this Issue
Spiritual Dimension of Sustainable Development


The theme last month was "religious dimension of sustainable development." The theme this month is "spiritual dimension of sustainable development." It is important to distinguish between religion and spirituality. There is a spiritual dimension to human nature and everything we do. Indeed, there is a spiritual dimension to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and there is a spiritual dimension to any human undertaking. Religion and spirituality often overlap. But, while religion is mostly a human initiative, spirituality is mostly a divine initiative: God trying to reach the heart and soul of every human being. Religion entails human effort to reach God. Spirituality entails removing obstacles and being open to God, who is always knocking at the door.

This issue is a revision of last month's issue to clarify this crucial difference, in response to copious feedback received. There is mutualism between spirituality and religion, and there is mutualism between individual spirituality-religion and sustainable development. There is also mutualism between spirituality-religion and all the dimensions of human and social life that provide the context for sustainable development. This issue is an attempt to clarify the terminology, in order to better understand the connections between religion, spirituality, and other dimensions of sustainable development.

It has been pointed out that religion is both ubiquitous and dangerous. It is ubiquitous during the full human development process, reaching beyond the physical, biological, and psychological levels. It is dangerous when it degenerates into fanatical delusions about the absolute superiority of any particular religion, and then leads to religious intolerance and religious violence. The danger becomes a tragedy when exclusivist prejudice, disguised as religion, actually separates people from each other and from God. A good example is the resistance -- pervasive in most religions -- to have women in roles of religious authority.

This month, there is an "international congress" at the Vatican to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mulieres dignitatem about the dignity of women as human persons. But this event is being managed by the Roman curia's office for lay people, the agenda remains a secret, and participation is by invitation only. This probably means that the priestly ordination of women (which is the only way for women to effectively participate in church governance and sacramental ministry) will not be considered. This is probably another exercise in condescending parody, totally devoid of freedom of conscience and divorced from any consideration for the glory of God and the good of souls.

This issue introduces the following topics:

  • The MDGs, human development, and freedom of conscience
  • Religion as a socially and culturally conditioned construct
  • Spirituality as a fundamental need of the human person
  • Patriarchy as a corruption of the original unity of man and woman
  • The spirituality of solidarity, sustainability, and non-violence
  • The spirituality of sustainable human development

These are complex issues that pertain to the mystery of human life. It would be foolish to presume that we can provide definitive answers. But we can get started by asking some honest questions:

  • Is it possible to achieve the MDGs without religious freedom?
  • Is religion a reflection of culture, or vice versa?
  • What is more fundamental, religious freedom or human rights?
  • Is patriarchal governance conducive to spiritual development?
  • Is religion conducive to solidarity, sustainability, and non-violence?
  • What kind of spirituality is best for sustainable human development?

The starting point is to elucidate the difference between religion and spirituality. This should lead to a better understanding of concept of religious freedom and the proper collaboration between secular and religious institutions. Next is the divine origin of both spirituality and human rights. Then comes the issue of governance: is democracy best only in the secular world, or is it best also for religious institutions? If it is possible and desirable to have "unity in diversity" in social affairs, why not in religious matters and paths of spiritual growth? Is Christianity, for example, intrinsically superior to Islam and other religious traditions? It is reasonable to conclude that religious tolerance is intrinsically better than religious intolerance, and this is so both between religious traditions and within any given religious tradition. Coercion is never for the greater glory of God, let alone the greater good of souls.

Updates of the SSNV-MDG knowledge taxonomy and links database continue as time permits. Links to marginal research resources are being deleted, and links to "best of the web" resources continue to be collected. This is a never ending task, and the reader is cordially invited to take a look at this resource, grab anything of interest, and download it (free) for your own use (two options: HTML Web Page or EXCEL Spreadsheet).

This month's invited paper is A Catholic Father Advises his Daughters Regarding the Soft Spots in Mulieris dignitatem, a reflection by Aaron Milavec, Vice-President of the Catherine of Siena Virtual College, dated January 2008. A key objective of this virtual college is to provide education pursuant to the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church.


  1. The MDGs and Religious Freedom
  2. Religion as a Human Initiative
  3. Spirituality as a Divine Initiative
  4. A Critical Analysis of Patriarchy
  5. Alternatives to Patriarchal Governance
  6. Spirituality of Sustainable Development
  7. Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom
  8. Prayer, Study, and Action
  9. Links to Archived Newsletters

A Catholic Father Advises his Daughters Regarding the Soft Spots in Mulieris dignitatem, by Aaron Milavec, Vice-President of the Catherine of Siena Virtual College, 2008.


The Pelican Symbol
Religious Traditions
Global News/Issues
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1. The MDGs and Religious Freedom

Three basic definitions are in order: religion, spirituality, and conscience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines religion as a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. It defines spirituality as the quality or state of being spiritual. Religion generally refers to seeking God by exercising certain practices. Spirituality generally refers to a "quality of being" that is a free gift from God.

The Merriam-Webster defines conscience as the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good. Freedom of conscience is the most fundamental of all freedoms. The following is a good definition of conscience in plain English:

”Cowardice Asks the Question, “Is it Safe?”
Expediency Asks the Question, “Is it Politic?”
Vanity Asks the Question, “Is it Popular?
But Conscience Asks the Question, “Is it Right?”
And there comes a time when one must take
a position that is neither safe, nor politic,
nor popular, but one must take it because
one's conscience tells one that it is right."

~ Martin Luther King Jr.

The reader is invited to explore various definitions of conscience in Merriam-Webster and other references. On freedom of religion and, in particular, freedom of conscience, the following sources are recommended:

Freedom of conscience is the foundation for freedom of ideas, freedom of thought, and freedom of speech. Freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion, are essential human rights and, therefore, essential for democratic governance. Some people think about the U.N. MDGs a something that can be accomplished by democratic manipulation of social, economic, and environmental factors. Political factors are generally recognized to be critical. But religious factors are generally ignored or treated as second order. After 9/11, we should know better. Some of the most formidable barriers to the MDGs are religious in nature. More about this in the next issue.

2. Religion as a Human Initiative

To say that "religion is a human initiative" and "spirituality is a divine initiative" may be an oversimplification. As we have seen from the definitions, both terms are used in common language in reference to the same reality. That reality is that human beings need to belong to something bigger than themselves. That "something bigger" is called God in various ways and under various names, but the basic reality is the same. The sense of belonging to God is nurtured both ways: people develop rituals and practices to experience the presence of the divine, and God comes to all people in a spectrum of experience that starts with everyday events and culminates in mystical union. The human initiative is required, but God "is never outdone in generosity." This section is about the human initiative and effort in seeking God. The next section will focus on God coming to meet those who open their hearts and minds to "becoming what they already are."

In primitive religions, seeking to please God entailed practices such as human sacrifice. We now understand that this is not what God desires (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13, 12:7). At this point in human history, working for social and environmental justice is where the action is. Working for human solidarity and environmental sustainability, and doing it non-violently: this is what God desires. Nothing human is perfect, and the United Nations certainly needs a reformation of its own, but the MDGs are an excellent example of giving glory to God by working for social and environmental justice. Recommended examples:

As clearly shown by the case of Cyrus the Great, it is by no means true that God works for good in human history only via religious leaders and/or religious institutions. Cyrus, a pagan king from Persia, was inspired by God to allow the Jewish people of the Babylonian exile to go back to their own country in order to rebuild the temple. There are many cases like that in human history: the Roman emperor Constantine stopping the persecution of Christians (Edict of Milan, 313 CE), the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1492), Thomas Jefferson and the other the founders who signed the United States Declaration of Independence, 1776, Rachel Carson starting the environmental movement in the early 1960s, and so many others that the reader can find in the World History Database.

Needless to say, secular leaders make decisions, and take action -- at least to some extent -- in response to their conscience, and the conscience of every person is influenced by the cultural and religious environment. There is even a collective unconscious (Carl Jung) that integrates over time the experience of a society as to what is good and what is bad. More about this in the next issue.

3. Spirituality as a Divine Initiative

Religion is a human initiative. Spirituality is a divine initiative. This means that religion is driven by human needs and desires, the most important being the need to belong and the desire to be confirmed in our belonging. It does not mean that spirituality does not require the cooperation of the person seeking the inner presence of the divine. But this cooperation is not a matter of reciting many long prayers, doing a lot of fasting, or participating in many rituals. Rather, it is a matter of removing obstacles to divine grace by avoiding sin, letting go of inordinate attachments, and having a clear conscience. The spiritual person embraces simplicity and transparency of heart and mind. God never fails to touch those persons as they walk along the "straight and narrow path" of the inner journey.

Spiritual persons know that "God is never outdone in generosity." They also know that "God writes straight with crooked lines." The "straight and narrow path" may seem neither straight nor narrow. The inner traveler may experience pain and suffering (both external and internal), and may deviate and get lost very easily along the journey, for there are both bright days and dark nights. It often happens that when everything is dark, and no sense of direction remains, God comes to meet the pilgrim with assurance of eternal friendship and deeper insight into the life of the spirit. Those encounters are often short, but never forgotten. The "old person" is no more, and a "new person" has been born. The "new person" has the same physical and psychological traits as before, but deep inside there is a new and unbreakable peace that nothing can destroy.

Nobody has a monopoly of God, and there are many paths of spiritual growth. The following is a very limited list of examples that the reader may want to explore:

The list above includes only a few of the many legitimate paths to inner enlightment. But all paths lead to a personal experience of God's presence and a divine gift that thereafter remains constant: the gift of inner peace, a peace that nothing can take away. This inner peace enables a person to face the most dramatic events and transitions without being afraid. Indeed, it is the kind of peace that enables a person to be an instrument of peace in the world:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

~ St. Francis of Assisi - 13th Century CE

This is one of the most beautiful prayers in the Christian tradition. St. Francis is, of course, a model that very few can replicate. But to seek solidarity, sustainability, and non-violence requires, at least to some extent, the divine gift of inner peace. The authenticity of any religious tradition (or religious practice) that corrupts peace is very much in doubt. There must be peace between men and women, between ethnic groups, between nations. Else, working for social and environmental justice is an exercise in futility. What happen is that the lack of inner peace is compensated by outer activity pursuant to wealth accumulation, power consolidation, and ego-enhancing honors. When this mindset prevails, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, conflicts are "resolved" by violence, and honors are the only way to disguise our inner misery. More about this in the next issue.

4. A Critical Analysis of Patriarchy

The structure and dynamics of patriarchal societies have been discussed at length in previous issues. The reader may wish to check the following references about patriarchy, and "patriarchal spirituality," from the perspective of various religious traditions:

There is no such thing as "patriarchal spirituality." There are patriarchal religious institutions that project their patriarchal governance structure in their spirituality. But authentic spirituality cannot possibly be phallocentric. There is no such thing as a patriarchal God. It follows that the so-called "patriarchal spiritualities" are 90% patriarchy and 10% spirituality. Furthermore, the perpetuation of these "patriarchal spiritualities" does great harm to human development in general, and to the human development of men in particular. Are women more spiritual than men? No, absolutely not. But the imposition of a "patriarchal spirituality" actually helps them (albeit for the wrong reason) to integrate the masculine side of their humanity. In the case of men, the imposition of a "patriarchal spirituality" prevents them (again for the wrong reason) to integrate the feminine side of their humanity. The nefarious repercussions of this patriarchal bias are not difficult to see in both individuals and society.

Symbols are powerful communicators. Consider the following symbols:

Enso Mandala

Trinitarian Mandala

Yin-Yang Mandala

The mandala is a symbol of the divine, the inner self, and the outer cosmos. There are many variations of mandalas, the most common having the form of a circle around the center point. The center point is what really matters. The circle serves to focus on the center point. The use of mandalas to foster spiritual growth originated in Hinduism but has now extended to most religious traditions, especially in the East. The Enso mandala is typical of Zen Buddhism. The Trinitarian mandala is a reflection of the Christian West. The Yin-Yang mandala is a Chinese symbol of "unity in diversity," i.e., men and women, black and white (and all the other races), divinity and humanity, inner life and outer life, etc.

Mandalas can be used as tools for religious meditation, and to attain self-knowledge and psychological healing. They can be used to focus attention on divine mysteries. Mandalas make visible the link between humanity and the cosmos, and between individuals and their local environment. Mandalas, however, are generally not intended to be symbols of patriarchy, or matriarchy, or any other form of hierarchy of authority among humans. Surely, the Trinitarian mandala displays the patriarchal Father-Son-Holy Spirit hierarchy, and the triangle is shown over the circle; but it serves to clarify the Trinitarian equation (1+1+1=1) in which any hierarchy between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always relates to communion, not domination.

It is noteworthy that the Nicene definition of the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was formulated in the context of the patriarchal Roman empire. Actually, Christians believe that the "Father," who abides in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), transcends gender; and the Son had to be either male or female in order to be like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15). Since God is not patriarchal, it follows that any "patriarchal spirituality" is a human invention that has nothing to do with biblical truth. But, again, images are powerful communicators, and it may take centuries to overcome the misconception of a male-only God. In this regard, the last two references listed above are very instructive. For instance, regarding masculine spirituality:

"First, I want to say that a masculine spirituality is not just for men, although it is men who are most likely going to have to rediscover and exemplify it. Strangely, it is an approach that many women are more in touch with today than men. Women have been encouraged and even forced to work on their inner life more than men in our culture.

"In general, they are far ahead of men in integrating the masculine and feminine parts of themselves. Their inner journeys have left many of us men in the dust. Our sisters’ pursuit of the authentic feminine has made the brothers aware that there is also an authentic masculine. But what is it? Quite simply it is the other side of the feminine energy. It is the other pole, the contrary, the balance.

"In the Chinese view of the universe, it is the yang, or active masculine principle, that is always the necessary complement to yin, the passive feminine principle. For the Judeo-Christian tradition it is half of the image of God: “God created humanity as a self-image, male and female God created them” (Genesis 1:27)."

Masculine Spirituality, by Rev. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.,
National Catholic Reporter, September-October 1988

And, in reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 1994):

"It is hard to laugh when confronted with a calamity, yet I managed a few smiles while reading some passages of the Catechism's patriarchal spirituality which tells us "to be perfect as our Father in heaven" (2013). I already mentioned the text of Ambrose instigating humankind to become "king, governing himself with suitable rigor, refusing to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul" (908). We get more of this patriarchal literature in parts three and four. "The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood," (2214) mothers are apparently not included. Indeed "filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience. My son, keep your father's commandments..." (2216) Woman gets a consolation because Mary is the paradigm of such obedience. "God choose those who are considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises." Follows a list of women of the Hebrew Bible, among them Judith who showed "her powerlessness and weakness" by beheading poor Holofernes, the Assyrian general besieged by the many "isms" of our modern times. A regrettable consequence has been the Church's culture-blindness which made her fail in the outreach towards the great cultural and religious tradition of Asia. Vatican II with its ideas of local church, enculturation, dialogue with world religions, and so on is a turning point. This was followed up in some great documents, among them Evangeli Nuntiandi of Paul VI and Catechesi Tradendae of John Paul II. The pope also established the Pontifical Council of Culture. I really wonder what this whole evolution means when we suddenly have to read in a Catechism, presented as "a sure norm for teaching the faith" that enculturation is only an "adaptation" (24). Did the authors not read the statements of John Paul II who sees an "organic and constructive link" between Christianity and culture? " The synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture, but also of faith. A faith which does not become culture is a faith which has not been fully received, not thoroughly thought through, not fully live out."

The Church: A Pilgrim Community of Disciples, Chapter 7,
by Rev. Fumio Sukegawa, Sapporo Diocese, Japan.

It is hard to understand why the Vatican wants to perpetuate images and practices that are harmful to people, both socially and spiritually. What is it that they are conserving? What is it that they are transmitting? What is it that they are afraid of? More about this in the next issue.

5. Alternatives to Patriarchal Governance

The best alternative to patriarchal governance is democracy. This applies to all human institutions, both secular and religious. Nothing human is perfect, but nothing human is worst than absolute power without any checks and balances. Democracy is the only framework that allows the emergence of a new mindset solidarity and sustainability, as we have discussed at length in previous issues. Starting with the American and French revolutions (1776, 1789), the number of nations embracing democracy has been increasing exponentially. The reader may wish to check the following references about democracy, solidarity, sustainability, and related concepts such as subsidiarity:

What should be the first priority for all secular institutions in the world? To examine their structure of governance. If it is not democratic, make it so. If it is democratic, make it more so. Democracy is a dynamic process that must be improved continuously; if it is not improving, it is deteriorating. Again, this applies to all secular institutions, not only governmental institutions. Corporations could benefit from more participation in decision-making by all stakeholders (via, for example, triple bottom-line analyses done jointly by managers and employees). Educational institutions, from elementary schools to universities, could benefit from more participation in decision-making (including curriculum and tenure decisions) by all stakeholders.

Likewise, the first priority for all religious institutions (in all religious traditions) should be to reform their structure of governance in order to make it more democratic. Neither bishops nor ayatollahs have internet connections to "heaven," let alone to God. It is time for the Roman Catholic church to cease being an absolute monarchy. It is time for Islamic states to recognize that the separation of religion and state is the practice most conducive to a good balance of faith and freedom, including full gender equality. In brief, it is time for religious leaders to stop playing God. If they persist in doing so, religious bodies will become irrelevant, and the good they do will no longer be done.

There is a need for fresh ideas going forward. Back in the political arena, the "socioeconomic democracy" theory of Robley George deserves careful consideration. Readers are encouraged to take a good look at the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies website (last bullet in the list above). There is something here that may give new energy to both sustainable democratization and sustainable development, including the U.N. MDGs. In fact, sustainable democratization and could be, like the two sides of a coin, one and the same thing. More about this in the next issue.

6. Spirituality of Sustainable Development

"Consumerism is a surrogate for God."
"The only thing we have to fear on this planet is man."
Carl Jung (1875-1961)

Indeed, "consumerism is a surrogate for God." We might be tempted to say that "economic growth" is another surrogate for God. But the problem with economic growth, or economic development in general, is not in the growing but in the distributing. Economic growth that exacerbates the widening gap between rich and poor is no longer tolerable. Nor is economic growth tolerable when it happens at the expense of ecological health. There is an urgent need for new concepts of economic growth that are compatible with sustainable development and, in particular, human development for all inhabitants of the planet. The following links will take the reader to recent (or not so recent but yet to be tested) advances on modes of economic growth that might be both ecologically sustainable and humanly enriching.

Religion, in the sense of spirituality, can provide a powerful motivation to work for sustainable development. It is not so clear that the same can be said about organized religion. According to Carl Jung, "the No. 1 problem with organized religion is that the purpose of organized religion is to prevent people from having a direct experience of God. Religion is organized around the principle that religion will provide the direct experience of God for you as long as you become a member, follow our rules and contribute to us financially." All bureaucracies share the similar dynamics pursuant to self-interest and self-perpetuation. Consumerism, wealth accumulation, and misuse of power are as common in religious bureaucracies as they are in secular institutions.

And yet, religious institutions have resources of divine wisdom and spiritual renewal that would be instrumental to bring people to the point of changing consumer habits and social behavior. Thus concludes Gary Gardner of the Worldwatch Institute: "The goal is to help us all to make an emotional as well as scientific connection to Nature. The great Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould reflected this when he wrote: 'We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional and spiritual bond between ourselves and nature as well, for we will not fight to save what we do not love.' Love. Who would have thought that we'd end this talk about sustainability, about the need to preserve forests and rivers and people, with that word? But there it is. You, in the faith community, can help us to infuse our scientific worldview with love, love of one another, and love of God's Creation. Nothing else will suffice. Nothing less will see us through this historic moment."

How do we know if religion is healthy, both humanly and ecologically? According to behavioral health consultant and writer Steven Kalas, it boils down to this: "healthy religion strives for human wholeness". He proposes the following criteria to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy religion:

  • Healthy religion recognizes the developmental stages of a maturing spirituality, and encourages the movement through those stages. Unhealthy religion impedes that development, and shames or vilifies those who attempt to move from one stage to the next.
  • Healthy religion is not threatened by passion, be that creative passion, artistic passion, sexual passion or celebration. Unhealthy religion is afraid of such things, and moves subtly or aggressively to constrain, punish or ostracize passionate people.
  • Healthy religion is not anti-intellectual. Unhealthy religion is afraid of certain questions.
  • Healthy religion values truth more than it values being right.
  • Healthy religion respects and values both male and female. Unhealthy religion tends to be marked by the oppressive masculine or the critical, shaming feminine.
  • The goal of healthy religion is wholeness, and the freedom wholeness invites. The goal of unhealthy religion -- regardless of what they say -- is control and conformity. Its favorite strategy to this end is constantly cultivating in you ambivalence, doubts or even hatred for the self.
  • Unhealthy religion is a bully. And if I sound a little grouchy sometimes about religion, it's because I hate bullies.

Healthy religion strives for human wholeness,
by Steven Kalas, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2 January 2007

What is, then, a healthy spirituality for sustainable development? One that strives to give glory to God by

Striving for human wholeness
Striving for ecological wholeness

So, what else is new? What is new is not the integration of individual and creation spirituality. There is a long tradition of awareness that this is what God desires, starting as early as Genesis 2:15. What is new is the urgency to start doing it. Needless to say, many practical issues remain, especially how to manage sustainable development in a democratic way. More about this in the next issue .....

7. Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom

This issue is both long and late. See the following:

Updates of the SSNV-MDG knowledge taxonomy and links database continue as time permits. Links to marginal research resources are being deleted, and links to "best of the web" resources continue to be collected. This is a never ending task, and the reader is cordially invited to take a look at this resource, grab anything of interest, and download it (free) for your own use (two options: HTML Web Page or EXCEL Spreadsheet).

8. Prayer, Study, and Action

As you all know, here in the United States we are in the midst of the nomination process for the 4 November 2008 presidential election. It is time to do some prayer, study, and action for this country, now facing some serious problems after the catastrophic eight years of the Bush administration. The USA has been living on borrowed money for a long time, and nobody wants to hear the music.

Something has to change, and this probably includes our mindset about growth and our consumption patterns. Many other things may have to change. The question is, change to what? The complexity and urgency of the issues certainly require prayer, study, and action. Everyone can get involved in the process in one way or another. One simple way is to pray before voting, study the issues, and write letters to members of congress, leaders of the political parties, and other secular and religious leaders.

Erica Jong is a renowned poet, novelist, and essayist. She is not a politician. She surely is a busy person. But she found the time to write the letter reprinted below (with her permission) to share her hopes and concerns about some of the candidates who are currently seeking the presidency of this great nation. You don't have to be Erica Jong to write a letter. Anyone can write a letter. Everyone can and must do something to contribute. Sitting back, and doing nothing, is not an option.

Hillary vs. the Patriarchy
By Erica Jong
Washington Post
February 4, 2008

"Look, the only people for Hillary Clinton are the Democratic establishment and white women," said Bill Kristol yesterday on Fox News Sunday, one of the many "news" outlets to expose Kristol's reliable sexism. "The Democratic establishment would be crazy to follow an establishment that led it to defeat year after year," Kristol continued in his woolly, repetitive style. "White women are a problem, you know. We all live with that."

Bill Kristol has been much criticized for his war mongering, arrogance, poor writing and lack of fact checking. But at least the guy is honest. He considers women a problem -- especially white women. And he feels confident enough as an alpha male to be open about it. "I shouldn't have said that," he demurred. But he can say anything he likes and still fall eternally upward. He's a white man, lord of all he surveys -- including Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I, too, have been watching Hillary Clinton with admiration, love, hate, annoyance and empathy since she appeared on the national scene 16 years ago. (Can it be only16 years?) I've had a hard time making up my mind about her. Perhaps that's because I identify with her so strongly.

I'm hardly the only woman who sees my life mirrored in hers. She's always worked twice as hard to get half as far as the men around her. She endured a demanding Republican father she could seldom please and a brilliant, straying husband who played around with bimbos. She was clearly his intellectual soul mate, but the women he chased were dumb and dumber.

Nothing she did was ever enough to stop her detractors. Supporting a politician husband by being a successful lawyer, raising a terrific daughter, saving her marriage when the love of her life publicly humiliated her -- these are things that would be considered enormously admirable in most politicians and public figures. But because she's a white woman, she's been pilloried for them.

She's had to endure nutcrackers made in her image, insults about the shape of her ankles and nasty cracks from mediocrities in the media like Rush Limbaugh, Chris Matthews and Kristol.

When she decided to run for the Senate she was called a carpetbagger. When she won the hearts of her most conservative constituents by supporting their actual needs, the same poisonous pundits who said it couldn't be done attacked her.

Nor are poisonous women pundits any more kind. Maureen Dowd regularly gives her a drubbing. And "progressives" from Susan Brownmiller to Oprah Winfrey sport Obama buttons.

I, too, was a bluestocking from a woman's college, straight-A student, Phi Beta Kappa, who found my voice as a writer while exiled to the boonies with a husband who cheated. With every book I published, I saw more clearly how uneven was the playing field for women. We were let into the literary world on sufferance. Unless we wrote unreadable academic tracts that nobody bought, or mysteries or romances or something called "chick lit" (whatever that is), or biographies of Great Men, we were booed off the stage.

I chanced to get famous for my work. Hillary got famous in the unspeakable role of "First Lady," which Jackie Kennedy Onassis thought sounded like the name of racehorse. If she seemed uncomfortable in her skin, if she kept changing her hair, her image, her style, her way of speaking, how could we blame her? She was trying to be self-protective. Who wouldn't be if constantly attacked by a beastly press?

Little by little, she loosened up. She learned how to dress and speak and smile and relax on the podium. I've watched this whole process with immense admiration.

Fame in America is unforgiving. And she had to grow comfortable in the spotlight -- something very few people can do without having a nervous breakdown or drinking or popping pills.

Hillary made it without self-destructing. She was a tower of strength to her husband, who seems to have little impulse control, and her daughter whom she obviously loves and whom she never exploited even in the worst of times.

She cannot have enjoyed her husband's playing around. She certainly never condoned it. But he was clever enough for her, he supported her dreams, and they both loved their smart and beautiful daughter.

Besides, what does anyone know about anyone else's marriage? As a novelist I understand that I can't even invent the complexities most people live with, the compromises made, the deals negotiated and renegotiated. If it works, let's say hallelujah, rather than pick and quibble. It took me three marriages to find my soul mate. Maybe Hillary was luckier.

In the 1990s, when they became "Billary" as president, she gave her all. When the White House beckoned, she was true blue. When he took the hardest job in the world, she helped. And when he rewarded her by letting some tootsie do whatever it was they did in the Oval Office, she got really mad.

But she was wise enough to know what it did and did not mean. She did what smart European and Asian women have done through the ages: She kept her marriage but changed her focus to her own ambitions.

As a senator she has learned compromise and negotiation. She has gotten to know red America as well as blue. If she could win over the rednecks in upstate New York, she can win over any American. She knows this country is full of "security" moms as well as soccer moms. Since she is a woman, she has to show she's ready to be commander in chief. Hence her "triangulation" on Iraq and her signing the absurd Lieberman-Kyl resolution, which calls on our government to use "military instruments" to "combat, contain and [stop]" Iran's meddling in Iraq.

By the time it came up she must have known the Cheney-Bush war profiteers would never embrace even partial peace. She had to win over her America and theirs.

Who ever got elected in the United States without moving to the center? Not Ralph Nader the narcissist, nor Ross Perot the spoiler, nor certainly Adlai Stevenson the "egghead," nor Ronnie Reagan the red-baiter from Hollywoodland. Dubya presented himself as a "compassionate conservative" and our dopey press bought it. They inflicted him on us because they thought Al Gore was a nerd. The right-wing media barons happily smeared the better man for no good reason. Noam Chomsky predicted all this 25 years ago, when he said that the concentration of the media would rob us of real news.

It certainly has. We can read all we want about Britney, Paris, Heath, Tom Cruise, the Spice Girls and all their buds -- dead or alive -- but we can't read about how many children have been maimed in Iraq, or their dead and legless or armless mothers and fathers who were shocked and awed. But we know its happening. And we feel the great weight of our complicity.

You will point to Hillary's complicity. You will quote crazy-like-a-fox Ann Coulter, who claims to be voting for her.

You will also quote left-wing bloggers who love Barack Obama, and peaceniks (I am one) who see no evil in him (nor do I). But I see little experience either. Obama is smart and attractive. Maybe he'll be president someday.

He was lucky enough not to be in the Senate when the Iraq war resolution was floated after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell lied about WMDs. That was the true tragedy of race: a black man lying for a corrupt white administration that was using him as a token, much as they use Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice now.

Obama is also a token -- of our incomplete progress toward an interracial society. I have nothing against him except his inexperience. Many black voters agree. They understand tokenism and condescension.

I understand my hopeful friends who think an Obama button will change America. But I'm sticking with Hillary. I trust her because all her life, her pro bono work has been for mothers and children. And mothers and children -- of all colors -- are the most oppressed group in our country. I trust her to speak for our children and grandchildren -- and for us. She always has.

Erica Jong's 20th book is "Seducing The Demon." She writes poems, novels and non-fiction and blogs for the Huffington Post.

© Erica Mann Jong 2008
Reprinted by permission of the author.
All rights reserved.

9. Links to Archived Newsletters

The following are links to previous issues of the newsletter:

V1 N1 May 2005: Cross-Gender Solidarity
V1 N2 June 2005: The Phallocentric Syndrome
V1 N3 July 2005: From Patriarchy to Solidarity
V1 N4 August 2005: Synthesis of Patriarchy and Solidarity
V1 N5 September 2005: From Solidarity to Sustainability
V1 N6 October 2005: Dimensions of Sustainability
V1 N7 November 2005: Analysis and Synthesis of Objective Evidence
V1 N8 December 2005: Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and Sustainability
V2 N1 January 2006: Synthesis of Solidarity and Sustainability
V2 N2 February 2006: Sustainable Human Development
V2 N3 March 2006: Patriarchy and Mimetic Violence
V2 N4 April 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions
V2 N5 May 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 2
V2 N6 June 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 3
V2 N7 July 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 4
V2 N8 August 2006: Mimetic Violence in Patriarchal Religions 5
V2 N9 September 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ September 2006
V2 N10 October 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ October 2006
V2 N11 November 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ November 2006
V2 N12 December 2006: Sabbatical Activity ~ December 2006
V3 N01 January 2007: MDG1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty
V3 N02 February 2007: MDG2: Universal Primary Education
V3 N03 March 2007: MDG3: Promotion of Gender Equality
V3 N04 April 2007: MDG4: Reduction of Child Mortality
V3 N05 May 2007: MDG5: Maternal Care Improvement
V3 N06 June 2007: MDG6: Contain the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
V3 N07 July 2007: MDG7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
V3 N08 August 2007: MDG8: Global Partnership for Development
V3 N09 September 2007: Integrated Analysis of the U.N. MDGs
V3 N10 October 2007: Feasibility of the 2015 MDG Targets
V3 N11 November 2007: If Not the MDGs, Then What?
V3 N12 December 2007: Review of the 2007 State of the Future Report
V4 N01 January 2008: Religious Dimension of Sustainable Development
V4 N02 February 2008: Spiritual Dimension of Sustainable Development

|Back to SUMMARY| |Back to OUTLINE|

|Back to SECTION 1| |Back to SECTION 2| |Back to SECTION 3|
|Back to SECTION 4| |Back to SECTION 5| |Back to SECTION 6|
|Back to SECTION 7| |Back to SECTION 8| |Back to SECTION 9|

|Link to Newsletter Home Page|

|Link to Invited Paper|

The Pelican Symbol


The pelican is a legendary symbol of commitment to the service of others, especially those who are weak and most vulnerable to physical and/or psychological violence. References:

The Physiologus
The Symbolism of the Pelican
Poem by St. Thomas Aquinas
Sermon by Rev. Sylvia Roberts

Religious Traditions

World Religions

Unity in Diversity

The following are links to information about some of the major religious traditions and approximate numbers of adherents:

Christianity (2.5 billion)
Islam (1.4 billion)
Hinduism (1 billion)
Buddhism (375 million)
Sikhism (23 million)
Judaism (14 million)
Bahá'í (7 million)

For more information, see World Religions, which includes global maps showing geographic religious distributions.

Global News/Issues

The following are links to recent global news and emerging issues, in no particular order:

Nun/theologian calls for resistance to patriarchy

The Religion and State Project

UN's role irreplaceable as a global authority

Sustainable Development: The Root of All Our Problems

Huge test of credibility for Churches in secular world

Conflict resolution, prevention, and transformation

Geologic Time: The Story of a Changing Earth

Earth Science by Design (ESBD)

UN Chief Announces Meeting on Development

The World Almanac

Consumption, work and human development

Shaping Global Sustainability Standards, One Sector at a Time

WSF 2008: Act Together for a Better World

Payments, penalties, payouts, and environmental ethics

What’s Your Consumption Factor?

UN launches International Year of Sanitation

Churches say eucharistic vision offers an alternative form for globalisation

Bertelsmann-Stiftung's Religion Monitor

New Statesman - The Church's true colours

Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change

Jesuit Educators say science-religion dialogue can humanize globalization

Bertelsmann Transformation Index

Environmental Woes Sow Seeds of Sustainability

The Rising Nepal

The power of education

The Challege to Checking Corruption

Higher taxes the cost of sustainability

Women of the Cloth

The World In 2008 | The future of futurology

Truth About Trade & Technology

Raising the bar

Gender Inequality is Bad Economics

State of the world: Shifting to sustainability?

Ban Ki-moon and the Future of the United Nations

European Muslims promote solidarity

Social Responsibility: Our Obligation in Shaping the Future

2008 is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th Anniversary

Development not a privilege but a right for all, says Ban Ki-moon

High oil prices? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

The Peak Oil Crisis: Storm of the Century

God's Story: As For The Story the Tyrants Try to Write

Consumers are concerned with "sustainability"

Is there any development in Malawi?

The diaspora : an economic, social and cultural force

Women and the Bhutto tragedy

Sub-Saharan Africa: the population emergency

Engineering in the 21st Century--A trivial pursuit?

Worshipping God with technology

Greenpeace claims win in battle against Japan whalers

Australian Court Orders Illegal Japanese Whale Hunt Stopped

Petroleum and sustainable development: Where are we?

Aggression As Rewarding As Sex, Food And Drugs

Woman and Man, the Fullness of What Is Human

Lech Walesa's vision of global harmony

A blatant failure of moral vision

Bush's Folly

Fust named head of Global Humanitarian Forum

Rock The Truth: Behind the Faces at FaceBook

The widespread gap between first nations and others shames us all

Researchers Stress Link Between Nutrition and Prosperity

Amartya Sen on Distorted Multiculturalism

The Challenges Facing Civil Society

What about the ones who are both sexist and racist?

Colloquium on Violence and Religion Conference

Immigration, Education and Globalization

U.N. watchdog grills Saudi Arabia on women's rights

Predictions for 2008 - Climate Change - Global Warming

Conference promotes global citizenship

Gordon Brown for a 'partnership of equals'

Testaments show examples of equality

No knowledge of whereabouts of Osama bin Laden

Designer's Atlas of Sustainability

Facing the Future Curriculum K-12

Carlota Perez on the Downside of Globalization

How far women have come since Roe v Wade

ISLAM Muslim women losing out in the West as well

Education and Gender

Rich countries owe poor ones trillions over environmental damage

Global Change Meta Portal (WBGU)

Prime Bells Magazine to focus on MDGs

Violence against women retards Africa's development

Agriculture for Sustainable Development

Pledge to be free from flying for 12 months

Challenging the Big Problems Facing Us, Rather Than Business As Usual

Catholic Digital Resources: A new evangelization for a new millennium

Davos focus: Global economic crisis

'Respect' is lacking between Islam and the West

UN Representative Praises Cuban Actions Towards Sustainable Development

Keeping humanity secure?

Millennium development goals elusive

Radical changes needed to IMF and World Bank

A Chance for Every Child

UN Chief Calls for 2010 MDG Targets

World Economic Forum Calls for Speedy Implementation of Millennium Development Goals

UN hails Moroccan progress with gender equality reforms

Catholics Using Gospel Nonviolence to Reform and Renew the Church

Davos World Economic Forum Addresses Pressing Global Issues

World Leaders Vow To Act Together On Millennium Development Goals

Developing responsible strategies

Tales from a Draughty Old Fen: may they be one

World Leaders Fortify Commitments to Environment

Between national Church and religious supermarkets

World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Diverse Challenges to Conflict Resolution

Davos gathering turns to threat of global poverty

Egypt's Bahais score breakthrough in religious freedom case

WSF Global Day of Action" "Act Locally, Think Globally"

Globalization dilutes impact of U.S. downturn

Child recruitment continues in over one dozen countries

Engineers and Economic Development

Ecosystems under pressure

Giant Teach-In to Focus the Nation on Global Warming

Climate Change Links 2008 Champions of the Earth

Fourth Internationa Conference on e-Social Science

Women Issues in Christianity and Islam

A Christian Thinktank

SPAIN: Gender Equality Law Triumphs over Rightwing Opposition

Russia Seeks Sustainable Development

UNDP | Poverty Reduction | MDG Support: Overview

Saudi women face systematic discrimination

Debating the politics of race and gender

White House candidates and the environment

The Banking Sector and the Perils of Globalization

The diaspora: an economic, social and cultural force

Religious Communities Work for Ecological Sustainability

The Second International Conference on Religion and Media

Visual storyteller par excellence

Politicians to be sensitised on importance of education

A portrait of globalization since the 17th century

VOX POPULI: Fear of a globalized planet

Art, the universal language of religion

Yearbook Presents Sustainability Trends and Leaders

Values and Sustainability

The balance of power - Part 1

The balance of power - Part 2

Inclusive governance stressed

Sex workers' drama transcends soap opera frivolity

Christians told: Give up carbon for Lent

The United Nations' Unscientific War on Biotechnology

The Cost Versus Price of Sustainability

The India story: Growth without equity

Cost of the War in Iraq
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Editor's Note: For more news sources, visit the SSNV News Sources and RSS Feeds Page. See also the SSNV Knowledge Taxonomy & Links Database and the SSNV Tools Directory.

Global Citizens

Achuar Activists
of the Pachamama Alliance
to save the Amazon Rainforest,
Southeastern Ecuador

MDGs + 1

MDG Pubs and Data

Millennium Development Goals:
mdggoals PLUS GOAL 9:
Universal Religious Freedom

Links to key MDG resources:

U.N. MDGs Home Page
MDG Core Documents
MDG Basic Indicators
U.N. Millennium Project
MDG Targets & Indicators
MDG Atlas
MDG Dashboard
MDG Monitor
MDG Slideshow
MDG Report 2007
GEO Report 2007
HDR Report 2007-2008
Youth and the MDGs
Health and the MDGs
State of the World Children 2008
State of the World's Girls 2007

HDR Report 2007/2008
Fighting climate change:
Human solidarity in a divided world

UNDP November 2007

State of the World Children 2008
Child Survival
UNICEF December 2007

Signs of the Times

Women who challenge
institutional misogyny

Tahmineh Milani
A feminist filmmaker forges ahead
and fights for freedom in Iran.

Upon the release of Milani’s latest film, "The Hidden Half," the Islamic Revolutionary Court accused her of "supporting those waging war against God" and "misusing the arts in support of counterrevolutionary and armed opposition groups." If she is convicted of these charges, the penalty could be death.

Hillary for President

Wife, Mother, Lawyer, Stateswoman
Senator from New York
Next President of the USA
The nomination process
is a wide open race;
may God help the candidates
to be honest,
may God help the voters
to choose well.

See letter by Erica Jong

Selected Links

Sites worth visiting:

Education for All
UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2008

Global Gender Gap Report
WEF, 8 November 2007

General Environmental Outlook 4 (UNEP)

World Economic Outlook:
Globalization and Inequality
IMF, October 2007


Mimetic Theory of René Girard

Socioeconomic Democracy
Robley E. George, Director
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies

International Energy Agency

Climate change:
Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation
in developing countries, UNFCCC, 2007






Bible & Koran
Search Side by Side

Men, Masculinities,
and Gender Politics
(600+ links on male-female politics)



Earth Charter

Religion, Spirituality,
Sustainable Development

Explore some good resources:

Invoking the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in the Quest for a Sustainable World

Religion in World Affairs: Its Role in Conflict and Peace

Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension

Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture

Ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development

Spiritual Enterprise: Building Your Business in the Spirit of Service

Science, Religion, and Sustainable Development

Healthy religion strives for human wholeness

Institute on Religion and Democracy

The Lab, the Temple and the Market: Reflections at the Intersection of Science, Religion, and Development

Sustainable development: Transform Self to Heal the Earth

The Earth's Charter Spiritual Agenda

Religion & Development in General

The Religion of Consumption

Role and Significance of Religion and Spirituality in Development Co-operation

Online Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies Resources for Education for Sustainable Development

Religion and Sustainable Development

European Forum for the Study of Religion and the Environment

World Council of Churches: Ecumenical Earth

European Christian Environmental Network

Sustainable Development ~ A Spiritual Imperative

Religion, nature and environmentalism

Institute on Religion & Democracy

Center for the Study of Democratic Societies

Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System

There are many ways to glorify God:

"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

"Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

"The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them,high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

"The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset,and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

"The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

"The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;

"He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well."

All Things Bright and Beautiful
Cecil Frances Alexander

SSNV Call for Papers
Short articles about the impacts of all forms of secular and religious violence on social solidarity, ecological sustainability, and human development.

During 2008, articles are especially desired on incentives for solidarity and sustainability and religious dimension of sustainable development. How can people be motivated to collaborate in the transition from patriarchy to solidarity, sustainability, and human development? What is the proper role of religious institutions?

Accepted papers will be published when time and space allows. Email your submission to SSNV.



Hosted by the Religion, Cognition and Culture (RCC) priority area, University of Aarhus, Denmark. Please send your proposals no later than April 1, 2008 to Secretary Marlene Jessen.

ECREA 2008
CFP, ECREA's 2nd European Communication Conference. Barcelona, 25-28 November 2008. Hosted by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Visit the conference website.

The Second International Conference on Health and Biodiversity (COHAB2), 25-28 February 2008, Galway, Ireland. For more information: Cohabnet Conference.

At the Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History, Abo, Finland, 11-13 June 2008. Point of contact: Donner Institute

Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Date: 6-11 July 2008. Place: Auckland, NZ. Conference convenor: Kathleen McPhillips

Sponsored by IADIS. Algarve, Portugal, 9-11 April 2008. Point of contact: Secretariat.


International Sociological Association (ISA), Barcelona, Spain, September 5-8, 2008. Abstracts should be sent to Roberto Blancarte and Olga Odgers.

Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE), University of Hull, UK, 27-28 November 2008. Contact: Jane Ellison.

Hosted by the Integral International Development Center, 22-26 April 2008, Istanbul, Turkey. Contact: Gail Hochachka.

World Heritage and Sustainable Development International Conference, Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal, 8-9 May 2008. Contact: HERITAGE 2008.

Second Global International Studies Conference, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, 23-26 July 2008. Contact: Jeff Haynes.

Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 10-13 June 2008. Contact: new-cue. Visit the conference website.

Indiana University Department of Religious Studies. Abstracts: Diane Fruchtman.

Accra, Ghana, 7-9 July 2008. Please visit the conference website.

ICAES 2008
"Humanity, Development, and Cultural Diversity," Kumming, China, 15-23 July 2008. Contacts: Prof. Zhang Haiyang and Prof. Zhang Jijiao. Visit conference website.

WWMM 2808
Women's Worlds 2008, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 3-9 July 2008. Contacts: Dr. Claudia Malacrida, Dr. Leslie Roman, Conference Secretariat.

Second World Congress in Social Simulation (WCSS'08), 14-16 July 2008, George Mason University, Washington DC. Contact: Professor Claudio Cioffi-Revilla.

"Gender and Well Being: The Role of Institutions from Past to Present." Madrid, Spain, 25-27 June 2008. Contacts: Paloma de Villota.

"The Biology of Religious Behavior: A Human Ethology Perspective on Religion." Sponsored by the Society of Human Ethology. Bologna, Italy, 14 – 18 July, 2008. Website: ISHE2008. Contacts: Marco Costa, University of Bologna, Italy and Luca Tommasi, University of Chieti, Italy.

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